As the present thunderstorm of rockets from Gaza began over the weekend, I kept an eye on the Western media outlets through Google. Sure enough, nothing! Nothing except a piece from Fox News that kind of implied Israel was firing back because of the elections in January. As we have come to expect, the Western media only woke up and stretched itself once Israel launched Operation “Pillar of Cloud” (biblical inference here?). However, at least Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague acknowledged that Hamas started it this time in a news conference today.
In the post World War Two years, the idea that a country needs a good reason before it attacks another country was codified in the UN Charter, which allowed for countries to go to war to defend themselves, or to engage in aggression as part of a UN force. Article 51, however, acknowledges the “… inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations…”. An armed attack on one’s country is therefore a “casus belli” (literally “cause of war” or “reason for war”), under which your country can immediately retaliate with military force. The UN will subsequently attempt to bring about peace by diplomatic means, but it does not deny your country the right to exercise military force before that in its defence.
A prime instance of “casus belli” was the 1967 “Six Day War”, in which Israel carried out a pre-emptive strike against some of her neighbours and won the subsequent war against all reasonable odds. What was the casus belli – or rather what were they? Firstly, Egypt ordered the UN peace-keeping force on the border with Israel to leave, against all written obligations she had signed after the 1948 war with Israel. Secondly, Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian forces moved up towards their respective borders with Israel and Jordan and Syria initiated border incidents. Thirdly Egypt closed the Tiran Straits, which prevented Israel using her southern port of Eilat. Any one of these actions was by itself a reason for war and, in the presence of all three, Israel was completely justified in carrying out her successful pre-emptive military actions as a defence against imminent armed attack from three surrounding nations.
So if the Six Day War was accepted internationally as a defensive action by a member state of the UN threatened with armed attack, each one of the 120 or so rockets fired from Gaza over the weekend was individually a casus belli. Israel was within her rights to have launched against Hamas whatever attack she felt was needed to stop just the first of the rockets coming over. Operation Pillar of Cloud was only launched after 120-150 “casi bellorum” (plural!) had taken place – restraint if ever we saw it!
Hamas, Fatah, the Muslim Brotherhood and assorted NGOs and anti-Israel groups will never allow that Israel is permitted to defend itself. Tonight in London (Thurs 15th November) a large rally organised by the anti-Israel Palestinian Solidarity Campaign will be held near the Israeli embassy. Why? Because these rabid extremist groups are not interested in facts, reason or the UN Charter; they will take up any tool lying around, with which to beat Israel over the head. Tonight they turn reason and logic on their heads (again) for the sake of holding a hate-fest against the only country in the Middle East that genuinely wants to live at peace with all its neighbours. Now, how can I make a casus belli out of that??!